Proven hacks to never lose your workout motivation again

Why do some people seem to love working out while it’s a mental fight for the rest of us? In this episode, we walk through several tips for getting motivated to show up to each and every workout.

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Episode Transcript:

  1. This is the Bad-Ass Dad Pod.
    1. Where we quest to live our best lives relationally, physically and financially no matter what age we are.
    2. Welcome to the squad, fellow bad ass!
  1. This episode, we’re getting motivated.
    1. Specifically, we’re talking physical workout motivation.
    2. Why do some people–most likely not you or me–seem so motivated to get to the gym or to get their runs in everyday… while the rest of us just don’t feel it?
    3. I’ve got three ideas for stomping down that naysaying voice that says “skip the workout today.”
    4. And that will lead us into the mindset of getting onto our daily workouts… even when we don’t wanna…
  2. So let’s get into this…
    1. My name is Ryan Dunn
    2. A fellow journeyer on the quest for awesome.
    3. Loser of pounds
    4. Mighty middle-ager!
    5. A recovering gym newbie…
    6. I’m a level 6 relationship ranger.
    7. Level 7 gym warrior.
    8. Level 3 debt mage.
    9. AND your lawful good podmaster. [MUSIC OUT]
  3. Let’s set the scene: 
    1. It’s 5AM. Your alarm is going off. 
      1. You set it for 5AM the night before in hopes you’d feel rested enough to get to the gym, but then got on a roll on Candy Crush and stayed up another half hour. 
      2. As your alarm goes off, you convince yourself it’s in your best interest to snooze a bit and skip the gym.
    2. The next day, you plan on going for a run after work. 
      1. But when the time comes, you’re just not feeling it. It was a long day. You’re signing off work a little later than anticipated. 
      2. You think of several things you still need to accomplish around the house before the end of the day. And you decide the run is going to have to wait.
    3. Ever experienced situations like this? These are situations where we rationalize our want to not workout. Your situations may sound subtly different. But I’ll bet you have them.
  4. I used to coach a high school cross country running team. 
    1. There isn’t a whole lot of variation to how a running team practices. It’s all running. Some days they may do speed drills. Other days its distance running. But the common thread to all of it is that practice means running. It’s all about the running.
      1. So when athletes asked me “Coach, what are doing today?” I got a rye sense of pleasure in simply replying, “running.”
      2. Every now and then, an athlete was bold enough to admit, “Coach, I don’t feel like running today.”
      3. I had a canned response to that line, too: “You know what cures that? Running.” It’s all about the running.
    2. As the seasons wore on, we all felt a diminishing sense of excitement in showing up to run. By the end of a season, it’s likely that nobody looked forward to another day of running at the beginning of practice. BUT, we always felt awesome at the end of practice.
    3. Can you relate? It’s easy to get excited about the idea of working out. But the excitement quickly fades when we are faced with actually working out. 
      1. The reality is: when faced with actually doing it, we may never actually feel like working out.
      2. The only cure is to do it anyway.
  5. Yeah, that sounds highly idealistic… and slightly demotivating. It’s also the only way to overcome the want to not workout.
    1. And for the days when the want is particularly strong, these steps help to balance out the rationalizations offered for not working out:
  6. Start by showing up
    1. Bodies at rest tend to stay at rest. 
    2. Your will, or desire, often follows this rule. 
    3. The impulse to get in motion comes when you show up to your workout. 
      1. Some days, that is the victory: just show up for your workout and begin. 
      2. The more this process is repeated, the easier it becomes to get started. I promise.
    4. I lived this last week. It was Friday, I had a session scheduled with a trainer.
      1. I hadn’t slept well all week.
      2. I was tired, ache-y…
      3. And, honestly, if it wasn’t a real jerk move to do it at the last minute–on a FRIDAY EVENING… I might have bailed on our appointment.
      4. But that idea of leaving a friend in the lurch provided the motivation to just show up.
      5. And you know what happened when I showed up?
        1. Of course you do!
        2. I worked out!
      6. It wasn’t my best workout of the week… but it counts
      7. It was a solid win… and I still benefitted…
      8. So the way to fight workout demotivation is to start by showing up… 
      9. And my Friday night experience provides demotivation fighter idea number two:
  7. Give yourself permission to take it easy
    1. Not every workout has to be an A+ workout. 
      1. If you hold an expectation that every workout needs to be an earth-shattering physical experience in establishing new personal bests, you’re going to burn out quick. 
      2. Accept that some days breaking a sweat is the best you have to offer.
      3. Or that even showing up is pretty darn close to your max effort level for the day.
    2. Again, getting started is the hardest part. 
      1. You’ll often find that the days you thought your workout would suck turn out to be huge confidence boosters as you accomplish more than you thought you would.
      2. So once you get into the workout, you find you actually have more energy and will power to kick-ass and conquer than you thought.
  8. The third idea for getting motivated even when you’re not feeling it: I’ve already touched on it… Provide an ulterior motive to working out
    1. I shared that I might have skipped my Friday night workout had I not made a commitment to meet with someone else.
      1. You can seize on this implied accountability, too.
      2. If you’re going through a spell where it’s tough to workout, put some money on the line.
      3. Hire a coach or trainer.
      4. OR, see if you can enlist a buddy to be a workout partner.
      5. Give yourself another person who’s going to get pissed at you if you blow off your workout.
      6. That generally does some kind of magic for me.
    2. Here’s something else that gets me going: I get into audio books and podcasts (obviously)… and music. 
      1. I’ve actually gone to the degree of barring myself from listening to certain playlists unless I’m working out: 
      2. For example, I can only listen to my “lift” playlist on Spotify when I’m lifting.
      3. Or I can only listen to entertaining, but somewhat frivolous, podcasts like Scared to Death and Last Podcast on the Left while I’m physically moving. 
        1. The best is when I get into a long episode and I don’t finish it during my first workout…
        2. So then I have to wait until my next workout to see how the stories conclude.
        3. It’s mindgames, but it works.
      4. Do you have carrots like that to offer yourself? 
        1. Like you can only listen to your favorite podcast when you’re within the confines of the gym? 
        2. Or a particular book only plays when you’re on the trail?
    3. OR, have you gamified your workouts yet?
      1. I introduce myself as a level 7 gym warrior… not in public… just on this podcast.
      2. I say that because I actually give myself experience points for working out.
      3. I’ve got a post on–which I’ll link in the episode notes–that details my whole gamification system.
      4. In a nutshell, I give myself points for working out, then when I collect enough points I level up and get a cool reward. 
      5. I’m so close to hitting level 8–which will be rewarded with a professional massage.
      6. For me, the rewarding of points has become a gratifying experience.
      7. It’s like the little bonus you get when log into your favorite gaming each day–you know what I’m talking about…
      8. Incentivize your workouts like that… and the motivation comes just a little bit easier.
  9. [Music in] Really, in the end though… I’m going to land on this:
    1. The more we work out, the more we develop a will, or want, or motivation to do it. I promise.
      1. So be OK with accepting small steps, like “today I’m just going to do show up to the gym”
      2. Setting a habit comes in degrees after the repetition of small steps
      3. So set a habit first of showing up at the gym, or the greenway, or whatever… and doing something, anything, if it’s really an internal fight to get going
    2. That’s it for me this week!
      1. It’s been a pleasure, as always.
      2. I value this time we have together. 
      3. If you’re looking for another relevant listen right now, check out 7 hacks to staying motivated from June of 2019.
      4. My Beginner Workout Mistakes from October of 2020 is another value-packed episode on the topic of physical fitness and motivation.
      5. Hey, please be sure to hit the subscribe button on your podcast platform.
      6. And check out for all things related to becoming a bad-ass physicall, financially and relationally, no matter what age you are.
      7. I’m Ryan Dunn. I look forward to talking to you next week.
      8. OK Bye!

Published by RyanDunn

Ryan Dunn has a bunch of certificates on his desk. A few are awards for content production and marketing. Another marks his ordination as a minister. One says he’s earned a BA in English from the University of Iowa. The certificate next to that says he earned an MA in Christian Practice from Duke (with honors!). Ryan is most proud, though, of the things he’s created: The Compass Podcast, some deep content on, a series of practical spiritual advice videos, a long-lasting marriage, and fantastic little boy. (He enjoyed A LOT of help on all of those projects, especially the last two.)

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